Vehicle Exterior Styling Becomes Increasingly Important Factor for New-Car Buyers in India: J D Power

For the fourth consecutive year, exterior styling gains importance in vehicle appeal, positively impacting customer satisfaction, according to the J D Power 2015 India Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study released on December 16.

The India APEAL Study, now in its 17th year, serves as the industry benchmark for new-vehicle appeal. The study measures how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive based on owner evaluations during the first two to six months of ownership. Overall APEAL performance is reported as an index score based on a 1,000-point scale, with a higher score indicating higher satisfaction. The overall APEAL score averages 846 in 2015, down 8 points from 2014. 

The importance of vehicle exterior has increased in the small car, midsize and utility vehicle super segments and is among the top three categories driving the overall APEAL score. 

Increasingly, buyers of new models cite attractive vehicle styling as the most influential reason for purchase compared with buyers of carry-over models. In addition to attractive styling, newer models differentiate themselves from carry-over models by providing more features- including alloy wheels, steering-wheel-mounted controls, hands-free communication, reverse parking assist, anti-lock braking system and dual airbags, among others. 

“New-vehicle buyers in India have a much wider range of vehicles to choose from than in the past. Automakers launch several models across segments each year, refining exterior styling and offering more safety, security and convenience features to keep customers engaged and excited,” said Mohit Arora, Executive Director at J D Power, Singapore. “Newly launched models have higher overall product appeal than carry-over models, and auto manufacturers can use mid-life cycle refreshes to update their vehicles and enthuse prospective buyers.” 

Models launched during the past year have higher APEAL scores than carry-over models. Satisfaction with newly launched models averages 857, compared with 845 for carry-over models in 2015. Carry-over models are purchased by a higher proportion of first-time buyers, compared with newly launched models (53% vs 44%, respectively). 

Following are some of the key findings of this year’s study. 

•Satisfaction with Overall Vehicle Appeal Leads to Loyalty: Among new-vehicle buyers who rate their overall satisfaction as delighted (10 on a 10-point scale), 89% say they “definitely would” recommend their model and 76% “definitely would” repurchase the same make. 

•Adoption of Audio/Entertainment/Navigation, Safety and Driving Convenience Features Increases: Fitment rates of several features in Audio/Entertainment/ Navigation (AEN) and safety and driving convenience have increased in 2015. Installation rates for anti-lock braking systems and driver and passenger airbags are at the highest levels since the inception of the study 17 years ago. Installation rates for hands-free communication systems and parking assist/sensors have both more than doubled since 2012. One in two vehicles in India has USB connectivity, and one in three vehicles has steering-wheel-mounted-controls. 

•Vehicles Fitted with Features are More Appealing: Vehicles fitted with features such as those listed above score comparatively higher in overall APEAL, compared to those without these features. For example, there is a 17-point gap in overall APEAL scores between vehicles fitted with an anti-lock braking system and those not, and a 20-point gap for driver/passenger airbags. 

“While feature fitment rates are increasing in newer vehicles, car manufacturers need to regularly track evolving customer preferences and feature options to determine which ones can maximize the cost-to-benefit ratio,” said Shantanu Nandi Majumdar, Director at J D Power, Singapore. 

Model Results by Segment 

Among the eight model-level segment awards, Toyota receives three awards (Etios, Etios Liva/Cross and Innova) and Hyundai receives three awards (Eon, i10 and Elite i20/Active). Volkswagen Vento ranks highest in the midsize segment and Mahindra XUV 500 ranks highest in the SUV segment. 

Notably, Hyundai’s Eon, i10, and Elite i20/Active and Toyota’s Etios and Innova also rank highest in their respective segments in the J D Power 2015 India IQS. 

The 2015 India APEAL Study is based on evaluations from 8,428 owners of new vehicles purchased between November 2014 and July 2015. The study was fielded between May and September 2015 in 30 major cities across India. The study measures satisfaction across 10 performance categories: vehicle exterior; vehicle interior; storage and space; audio/ entertainment/navigation; seats; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); driving dynamics; engine/transmission; visibility and driving safety; and fuel economy. 

Mercedes-Benz Ranks Highest Among Luxury Brands in Customer Satisfaction with Dealer Service 

Service advisors play a critical role in customer satisfaction with their vehicle service experience, according to earlier study by J D Power, viz. 2015 India Customer Service Index (CSI) Study - Luxury, released on December 3, 2015.

The study, now in its third year, measures satisfaction among luxury vehicle owners who visit an authorized dealership service centre for maintenance or repair work within the first 12 to 24 months of vehicle ownership. The study measures overall satisfaction in five factors (listed in order of importance): service quality (43%); vehicle pick-up (17%); service advisor (14%); service facility (14%); and service initiation (11%).

Key Findings

• Luxury Car Owners Expect End-to-End Interactions with Service Advisors: The study lists 11 points of interaction service advisors can have with their customers, from addressing them appropriately to reviewing work done on the vehicle. Satisfaction among customers whose service advisor delivered on all 11 points reported a satisfaction score, which is higher by 28 index points above industry average. Such interactions have occurred less frequently in 2015, with 56% of customers indicating their service advisors were in frequent interaction with them, compared with 74% in 2014.

•Satisfaction with Dealer Service Drives Customer Loyalty: Among the 24% of customers who are highly satisfied with their dealer service (overall satisfaction scores of 897 and above), 79% say they “definitely would” return to their dealer for post-warranty service and 85% “definitely would” recommend their dealer to friends and family. In contrast, among customers who are less satisfied (scores of 786 and lower), only 46% indicate they “definitely would” return to the dealer for post-warranty service, and only 66% say they “definitely would” recommend the dealer to others.

•Areas in Need of Improvement: Areas of customer service with the greatest need for improvement are those that focus on reviewing work done on the vehicle, performing an inspection of the vehicle and returning the vehicle washed and vacuumed. For example, 21% of owners indicate their car was not washed and vacuumed when it was returned from service, up from 7% in 2014.

•Same-Day Service Improves Satisfaction: More service facilities in 2015 provide same-day vehicle delivery, compared with 2014 (64% vs 56%, respectively). When service is completed on the same day, satisfaction is 847, compared with 817 when it takes longer than one day.

“Luxury vehicle owners around the world normally expect a high level of personalized service, and that holds true for their service experience,” said Mohit Arora, Executive Director, J D Power, Singapore. “Customers expect their service advisor to have an ongoing dialogue with them so they can know the status of the work being done throughout the process. Luxury car manufacturers and their dealerships need to develop appropriate communication protocols in order to fulfill this expectation and drive greater customer engagement.” 

Overall vehicle owner satisfaction with their dealership service experience averages 836 in 2015, a 7-point decline from 2014. An 11-point drop in service advisor satisfaction is contributing to the overall decline. 

2015 India CSI Luxury Brand Rankings 

Mercedes-Benz ranks highest in customer satisfaction with dealer service among luxury brands, with a score of 842. Mercedes-Benz performs particularly well in all factors. 

The 2015 India CSI Study is based on responses from 265 vehicle owners in the luxury segment who received delivery of their new vehicle between May 2013 and August 2014 and took their vehicle for service to an authorised dealer or service centre between October 2014 and August 2015. The study was fielded between May and August 2015. 

Vehicle Manufacturing Quality Significantly Improves Over Past 5 Years 

Yet another study by J D Power reveals that new-vehicle quality in India has improved significantly over the past five years, specifically in areas pertaining to defects and malfunctions.

J D Power 2015 India Initial Quality Study (IQS), now in its 19th year, measures problems owners experience with their new vehicle during the first two to six months of ownership and examines more than 200 problem symptoms covering eight vehicle categories (listed in order of frequency of reported problems): engine & transmission; HVAC; driving experience; vehicle exterior; features, controls and displays; vehicle interior; seats; and audio, entertainment and navigation. All problems are summarized as the number of problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower PP100 score indicating a lower incidence of problems and higher initial quality. 

The industry averages 96 PP100 in 2015, which is 22 PP100 fewer than in 2011. Problems related to defects/malfunctions account for 52 of the total PP100, a 26 PP100 decline since 2011. Design-related problems, such as features difficult to use and excessive fuel consumption, are at 36 PP100 in 2015, down marginally from 38 PP100 in 2011. 

“The industry overall has made significant strides in improving the quality of vehicles, dramatically reducing defects and malfunctions,” said Mohit Arora. “This clearly demonstrates the manufacturing capabilities of the automakers in India.” 

Arora noted that reliability, styling and quality are among the top purchase decision factors when selecting a vehicle, and problems experienced in the first six months of ownership can affect repurchase behaviour. “These early problems can set the tone for the entire ownership period and still have an effect years later when consumers replace their vehicle,” Arora said. “Therefore, it would be prudent for automakers to focus on quality, specifically reducing design-related problems, to deliver a best-in-class vehicle ownership experience and improve customer loyalty and advocacy.” 

Key Findings

•When compared with 2014, the improvement on high-volume models—Eon with 41 fewer problems and the Grand i10 with 34 fewer problems—has contributed to the overall Hyundai performance in 2015. Additionally, the newly launched Hyundai Elite i20 posts a segment-leading performance with 61 PP100. 

•The premium midsize and MUV/ MPV segments each improve by 30 PP100 year-over-year, while the upper compact segment improves by 22 PP100. 

•Quality improves across all categories since 2011 except HVAC, which posts a 5 PP100 increase during the same time frame. 

•Owners who receive an explanation of their vehicle’s features at the time of purchase report fewer problems than those who do not receive an explanation (93 PP100 vs. 160 PP100, respectively). 

•Vehicle quality builds advocacy. For example, among vehicle owners who experience fewer problems than expected, 71% say they “definitely would” recommend their model to family and friends, while only 34% of those who experience more problems than expected say they “definitely would” recommend their vehicle to others. 

2015 India Initial Quality Study Rankings 

Hyundai receives three model-level awards. Hyundai Eon ranks highest in the entry compact segment with 78 PP100; Hyundai i10 ranks highest in the compact segment with 83 PP100; and the debutant Hyundai Elite i20/Active ranks highest in the premium compact segment with 61 PP100. 

Honda and Toyota each receive two model-level awards. Honda Brio ranks highest in the upper compact segment with 41 PP100, and Honda City ranks highest in the midsize segment with 68 PP100. Toyota Etios ranks highest in the entry midsize segment with 82 PP100, and Toyota Innova ranks highest in the MUV/MPV segment with 44 PP100. 

Ford Ecosport ranks highest in the SUV segment with 75 PP100. 

The 2015 India IQS is based on evaluations from 8,438 vehicle owners who purchased a new vehicle between November 2014 and July 2015. The study includes 69 vehicle models from 17 makes. The study was fielded from May 2015 to September 2015 in 30 cities across India.




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